Bernie Sanders: The Dangerous and Popular Off-Brand

The first Democratic debate takes place Tuesday night, and Jim Webb, Lincoln Chafee, Martin O’Malley, Bernie Sanders, and Hillary Clinton will take the stage. The relatively small number of candidates, compared to the huge Republican pool, are all playing second to Hillary’s frontrunner status. My apologies to Webb, Chafee, and O’Malley, though, because plenty of people can’t even match their face with their last name. The only other candidate of this all-white, void-of-youth crowd that people are interested in watching seems to be cantankerous Bernie Sanders. Not because he’s great, of course, but because he’s so absurd you just can’t look away.

Although not new to the national political scene (he’s been in Washington since 1991), he appears as “fresh air” to his young, emotional, social media-driven followers. Both he and his ideas are old, but he’s new to the generation who has never seen the old before. And such “radical” ideas from an old white guy? Well, he’s such a cool old guy. As reported by CNN:

Sanders also steadily boosted his profile on social media — he now has almost 700,000 twitter followers and counts nearly 1.7 million likes on Facebook. And Sanders’ Reddit footprint is unmatched—his dedicated subreddit has 117,000 users to Clinton’s 760.

Indeed, his crowds often fit the Reddit demographic — young, male city dwellers.

While Reddit isn’t the bowels of the internet (that’s 4chan), it’s awfully close. But for all the surprise that Sanders is to this election cycle, and especially to the Hillary camp, he isn’t that far removed from the sitting president. Obama used speech of the revolutionary-and-fair kind to ignite a fire under a base which propelled him to the White House twice. However, Sanders, a 60s-era radical and self-described Socialist, takes it to the next level. Purification.

Sanders was recently on the cover of TIME magazine, and his cover story included this:

“When the Wall Street Journal attempted to tally the cost of his agenda – trillions in new government spending on health care, 90% tax rates on the superwealthy, free public college, a Scandinavian-style safety net – his defenders criticized the effort. It’s time, Sanders says, for billionaires storing their cash in the Cayman Islands to pay up. He is tapping into a recurring desire among Democrats for an outsider to purify the party.”
With a growing following, compared to Clinton’s stalling or falling numbers, and having just received his second Congressional endorsement, Sanders is the unexpected, rumpled-looking contender to Hillary. We can’t stand her in any case, but to the crowds of people attending Bernie rallies, Hillary represents the Democratic “establishment”. Much more successfully than Mrs. Clinton, Sanders taps into the enraged and engaged youth; those desiring for something fair to come out of their oversaturated world. This message he is preaching isn’t a new sermon from him or anyone, though. He has piggy-backed on the 2008 and 2012 Obama campaigns, and has created Bernie 2016. His campaign is even more aggressive and more oriented toward “equality”, so don’t let the media fool you. As Dan Spencer remarked in last month’s piece Remember: Bernie Sanders Is A Socialist, the media basically refuses to describe Sanders with the S-word. Socialism is a scary thought, and Sanders is awash in it.

Recent polling data shows Hillary Clinton leading the Democratic field by an average of just 16.6 points. As the previously mentioned TIME article pointed out of Bernie’s influence, “Nationally, he has cut Clinton’s lead from an impregnable 46 points to a crumbling 21 points in just two months”. Since that article, he has cut her lead by even more.

Tomorrow, I’ll be watching frontrunner Clinton. I, and many others, will also be watching Bernie Sanders. Should his brand of crumpled curmudgeon – with a passion for fairness – create even more converts, Hillary will have even less of a safety net. While his rise may take out Hillary as the nominee (though it’s a long-shot), it doesn’t bode well for us, either. His policies would cause nothing but harm.